“I read about successful entrepreneurs who are my age, and I feel like I am missing out,” he said.
Those words came from a 26-year-old man who is now in his second full-time job. He left a startup which pivoted one too many times. He lost faith after a couple of years. It stopped growing after the last pivot.
He graduated from a top engineering school with high honors. Before that, he was a hand-selected intern for an elite government lab on the west coast. In high school, he was in the top ten of his graduating class of 700+ kids.
Jack is one ambitious and competitive young man. I believe these two qualities go hand in hand. Jack wants to achieve great success, and he wants to do it now. After all, everything he reads makes him think everyone is doing it.
Jack Is Not Alone
I was reading an article recently on how Silicon Valley is changing. The writer observed there is no company loyalty in Silicon Valley. Programmers, marketers, and executives are moving from company to company every couple of years. They are hoping to be in the right place at the right time. They are reading the same articles Jack is reading.
I get it. In my prime, I was Jack. There was no internet back then, so I could control my content a bit better. I was a reader, so I would consume biographies, management books, Forbes, Fortune and the WSJ. Over time, I would get more and more anxious.
I would ask myself, “All these people are killing it, and here I am busting my butt and getting nowhere. I am missing out.” I once put a framed sign up in my office which read, “Bloom where you are planted.”
Success Takes Time
I knew even then success takes time. Building value in a company and a reputation in a career takes years. We read about these Silicon Valley lottery winners and believe, or want to believe, success comes quickly.
I learned this lesson while working in my first startup. We were slogging along in our third year of working six and sometimes seven days a week. Sales were not figured out. The market seemed to turn on and then off again. We had people issues, product issues, cash issues…you name it.
At 8 pm one night as I was about to leave the office, I blew up at the founder. He and I were the only two people still working that evening, and I lost it. I said, “I’m not making any money. I’m not feeling successful. I can’t see how we are going to grow this business. And neither of us has any answers.”
Sleep On It
He said to me, “All that is true. But I still believe in this business. If you don’t, then leave. I’ll buy back your stock. Think about it, and give me your answer tomorrow.”
I was so upset with him and the business, I stormed out of the office. I told Kathy about the whole situation, and she said, “Sleep on it.”
Next morning, I got up. I got dressed. I went to work. I kept working for another two years. Eventually, we sold the business for several million dollars.
I learned success comes by sticking with something for a long time. If you are part of a good team, even if it is just you and another person, then keep at it. Work within your constraints of market and money. Success will come. It just never comes in your time frame.
Also published on Medium.